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"Television may have an excuse for putting on all those unrealistic Medical Shows and unrealistic Police Shows and unrealistic Lawyer Shows and unrealistic Western shows. After all, Television writers don't have any first-hand experience at being Doctors or Cops or Lawyers or Cowboys. But what's the alibi when Television puts on an unrealistic Comedy about Television?"
Mad, "The Mary Tailor-Made Show", December 1972

A situation that would normally be chalked up to Did Not Do the Research, but can't really be put in that category because movie shooting is being inaccurately portrayed... by people who are in the process of shooting a movie or making some other form of visual entertainment! Scenes are shot in a single take, often in sequence, with the camera kept at a great distance where it couldn't possibly be getting the right angles or close-ups to make the scene convincing, and they never do a retake. This is especially annoying in action scenes, although it can often follow the Rule of Cool.

Not necessarily a bad thing: the entire process of filmmaking is rarely the point, so a bit of Artistic License, so that the viewers have an easier time understanding it, or to prevent a subplot from dominating the movie can be a wise choice.


Acceptable Breaks From Reality can include:

  • Showing scenes being filmed in order, or at least in an order that makes dramatic sense, because otherwise, the Show Within a Show could be very hard for the audience to understand. In Real Life, scenes are usually filmed out of order.
  • Showing multiple takes can easily bore the viewer. Can be got around somewhat with editing it down to the mistakes that ruin the take, or other such tricks, but it'd be hard to have a realistic number of takes for every scene.
  • Special effects will tend to be of the sort that's fun and interesting for the audience to see. Animatronics will be preferred to CGI or stop-motion monsters (unless these can be played for comedy), and you'll almost never see an in-camera matte shot.
  • "But the camera couldn't have got that shot!": Maybe there's a few angles in the final shot which the cameras we see couldn't have got. But it'd be annoying to the viewer to show the alternate angles being filmed in separate takes.
  • Lots of simplifications: For example, in real life, an action scene may be stitched together from dozens of takes, each a few seconds long, in order to allow special effects and other things to be worked in. When the actors aren't in closeup, they'll probably be replaced by stuntmen. Reaction shots and what's being reacted to might be filmed weeks apart. And that's not even getting into matte shots, where the actors and the background are filmed separately. All this is confusing for the viewers, and would take a long time to establish, so why not pretend the action scene is all one take, and that the special effects are really happening at the same time?

Other times, they just think Viewers are Morons and won't notice the glaring mistakes.

There can often be some overlap with Magical Security Cam and You Just Ruined the Shot.

Examples of You Fail Film School Forever include:


Anime and Manga Edit

  • When Renge decides to make a movie out of the titular Ouran High School Host Club (with a Hollywood camera crew handy), the intended Throw It In scene with Tamaki fighting young Yakuza thugs couldn't have been filmed from the position the camera was in (not to mention it wasn't there when the fight started).
  • Street Fighter IIV, with the Fei Long episode, where Ken is hired to play the bad guy, and the two of them start Ad-libbing the fight (so to speak). The director calls it off and vows to destroy the footage simply because Ken eventually managed to tag Fei Long in the face with an attack. Jackie Chan has to be spinning in his grave, and he's not even dead yet!
  • Subverted in Perfect Blue. The scenes from the show-within-a-show filmed out of order, but it could be argued that it adds to the movie's dreamlike atmosphere. In fact, near the end of the movie when they call a wrap, the scene they're filming doesn't even seem finished.
  • In Pokémon Special, the X Transceiver commercial shown could not have been filmed in one shot and would have required a fair bit of editing. Furthermore, there is apparently only one film director in all of Unova, as he is working on several projects across mediums in a relatively short amount of time.
    • There is an episode in the early Kanto series where the heroes participate in a movie. The director then proceeds to shoot the last scene of the movie, saying "I always shoot the last scene first, so I know how the movie ends". From the way he says it, this is implied to be a silly, comical quirk of his.

Film - Animated Edit

  • The film Bolt uses this, with the dog convinced that the show is real. This is hand waved by saying that they wanted the dog to think the girl was actually in mortal danger, so they'd get a better performance. Still, method acting didn't come close to justifying the absurd expenses and dangers incurred by the type of shooting they were apparently attempting. A network TV series in particular simply wouldn't have that kind of budget.
    • Legality and budget aside, the director is shown as being a bit insane. The network executive certainly thinks so.

Film - Live-Action Edit

  • Bowfinger is all about this. It even has a shoestring guerrilla film crew shooting around an actor who doesn't know he's their star. With a crew made of illegal Mexican immigrants. And a cult in the mix.
  • Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story Has an action sequence where Bruce fights a mercenary for several minutes, in one take as the camera follows them.
    • In this case, the fight was real, not staged, and the guy jumped Bruce in the middle of a movie shoot.
  • Subverted in Ed Wood, as he does do all those "simple mistakes". Except that he is shown shooting scenes out of order. He must have been awake that day in film school.
  • Johnny Cage's introduction scene in Mortal Kombat. They shoot an entire fight scene (until a last-move screw-up) in one take.
  • Ironically the ending of the snuff film hoax Snuff, which was actually supposed to look like a real film shoot, looked nothing like a real film shoot.
  • Charlie's Angels has Matt LeBlanc's character acting in a movie - the inaccurate portrayal, in this example, was a device to show that it wasn't reality. This is similar to the Mortal Kombat example above.
  • The first scene of Austin Powers in Goldmember, which has an action scene filmed in one shot for a Movie Within A Movie of Steven Spielberg's Austin Powers.
    • And it's clearly Rule of Cool mixed with Rule of Funny. It wouldn't be anywhere near as hilarious if the director had to keep stopping and ruining the surprise appearances of the actual actors.
  • Completely overturned trope in Living in Oblivion, an independent film about an independent film, which exposed every possible technical and artistic complication that can happen on a movie set, up to the cameraman and director arguing and playing politics over how the a scene was to be shot.
  • It's not entirely clear if the opening of Tropic Thunder is intended to be this, or if it's intended to be a Movie Within A Movie that then cut to the actors. The camera is never seen, so it might not be intended as a single take.
  • The Stunt Man
  • The Truman Show is pretty good when it comes to the visual footage -- the show does have the wonky camera angles, lack of/awkward use of camera movement, inappropriately close or far-away shots, etc, that you'd expect from a live show captured with hidden cameras. What is more problematic is the sound. All the dialogue is very clean and clear, as though caught on a high-end unidirectional mic from a couple of feet away, including a scene on a beach (beaches being notoriously awful places to record sound even under ideal conditions, usually requiring some degree of ADR for dialogue to even be comprehensible). At one point it's suggested that certain passers-by are concealing little shotgun mics on their person, but it's a Hand Wave at best.
  • An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn desperately tries to justify using this trope, by portraying all the actors in the fictional movie as being total assholes who will only ever do one take of a given scene, which later becomes a sticking point when the director steals and destroys the film's master print. Like everything else in Burn Hollywood Burn, though, it fails dismally -- not least because the fictional film is shown being edited on a computer at one point, meaning that a completed version of the film would probably survive in some form, even if the audio-visual quality was degraded.
  • The Burt Reynolds film Hooper is nothing but stuntman scenes and stuntman activities, but runs mainly on Rule of Cool instead of accuracy.
  • Francois Truffaut's Day for Night is basically a response to this trope. While it does show things like multiple takes (from different angles to keep it interesting) and the difficulties of making films, it goes a bit dramatic with worst case scenarios, including actor death.
  • During Gordy, a camera has its ordinary lens secretly replaced with a wide-angle lens, which will cause the commercial being filmed to be distorted. Nobody notices this, meaning the director or cinematographer never bothered looking through the camera to see if they liked the footage, or that nobody looked at the footage while it was being edited together. Sabotage of this kind would require striking the whole film crew with blindness.

Literature Edit

  • Averted in one story by Ephraim Kishon where he demonstrates how different real filmmaking is from this trope: Production runs up costs even if nothing happens on set, continuity is Serious Business, and a simple scene may need twenty shots until it's right. Add a Prima Donna Director... let's just say, it's not fun for the poor guy who ended up as an extra (even worse: unwillingly), having to play the role of the random guy who cries "Oy!" when the star steps on his foot.

Live Action TV Edit

  • The deservedly forgotten ITV sitcom Finest Half Hour was set in a TV station but bore no resemblance to a real one. Wasn't funny either.
  • The Fall Guy
  • Extras has this trope in-universe, as the director of "When the Whistle Blows" is deliberately shown to be totally incompetent.
  • Viciously subverted in Frontline, where the current affairs show within a show's tricks are exposed time and again. A notable early example is the filming of an interviewer's reactions AFTER the interview is finished.
  • Power Rangers Time Force at least acknowledged the need for multiple takes, although the movie was quickly revealed to be a trap, so we didn't get to see much more of the normal shooting.
  • ICarly tends to take creative liberties with live podcasting. For example, using a studio quality camera for shooting, relatively stable shots despite no tripod.
  • Comic Book Men featured shooting a commercial one episode, it all seemed genuine until the very end when the cast members gathered outside the store and delivered a line to conclude the commercial. This required several takes and the last one where they got everything perfect an old lady on the street walked into the shot. This of course ruined the shot, even though they could have easily used the audio over one of the other takes during editing.
  • Not a movie example, but related; Glee's "The First Time" features Rachel and Blaine, the stars in the school play, rehearsing about a week before their debut. They're not blocking any scenes, or even off book! This despite the fact that both Darren Criss and Lea Michele (not to mention many other cast members) came to the show from theater/musical backgrounds.
  • Justified on 30 Rock. Much like Saturday Night Live in the real world, the in-universe show is taped live in front of a studio audience.

Newspaper Comics Edit

  • In Spider-Man, MJ was to star in an action flick. One scene involved a brawl in an elevator. Only the two actors were anywhere near the elevator. Apparently there were no microphones, no lines, no choreography, and two unmanned or remote-controlled cameras. Small wonder that it went horribly wrong.

Theme Parks Edit

  • The Indiana Jones Stunt Show at Disney Hollywood Studios suffers from this, but since it's more about watching cool stunts than getting an accurate portrayal of a film set, it's somewhat forgivable.

Video Games Edit

  • The Movies. This game is about running a studio and making movies. However, you have to shoot all the scenes in order--which can mean that your cast and crew will shoot a scene on one set, then run to another set for the next scene, then back to the first one if that's where the next scene takes place. And if another movie is shooting on the set, they have to wait instead of shooting another part of the movie. And scenes are shot in a single take.
    • This can get particularly irritating if one cast member is out of action, usually due to alcoholism and stress. The entire shooting schedule has to be put on hold while said thespian is cured of his or her ailments, rather than e.g. letting the camera team film shots where the actors are not needed.
    • How do they shoot the killing of movie-monsters? By literally putting a blade in the actor's neck.
  • In Stuntman and Stuntman: Ignition, long car-chase scenes are shot are shot in sequence, with very little props - even when the scene involves a helicopter chasing a sports car through San Francisco, shooting just about every single thing with missiles. But hey, otherwise, it wouldn't be cool.
    • Ignition makes it a bit worse with the new effects and ragdoll physics on the actors. The director no longer seems to care if you just smacked your sports car into an extra on the sidewalk and sent him cartwheeling into traction. They also seem to have everything possible rigged up to explode; in the first scene of Overdrive you can optionally smash through a gas station and send it up in flames, while in the first scene of Whoopin' n' Hollerin' II the monster truck can crush every car, whether or not they're marked.
  • The Saints Row the Third expansion Gangstas In Space has the Boss playing the lead role As Himself in the titular sci-fi movie. Apparently, depicting an Alien Invasion of Stilwater involves building working alien fighters and using them to attack the lead actors, and the shootouts between the Boss and the aliens are shot with live ammunition and working laser pistols. But hey, this is the same game that features a Zombie Apocalypse, lucha libre gangsters, a boss fight in virtual reality, and a lethal game show/arena deathmatch, so it's all fair.

Western Animation Edit

  • An episode of Tom and Jerry Kids did this.
  • An episode of The Powerpuff Girls did this, although the movie was actually part of a scam to rob the bank.
  • An episode of The Flintstones not only did this, but had a director filming Fred and Barney, with no apparent script, who didn't even know they were in a movie, while they were being chased around and hit by boulders.
  • Used justifiably in Home Movies because the filmmakers are kids who don't know how the process actually works, and only have a home video camera to work with. In one episode, when it suggested that he should be shooting a different scene, Brendan replies, "Yeah, well we don't really have any editing equipment, so we kinda have to shoot in sequence."